The RSPB on Mull have set up a viewing station at a safe distance from the nest of the White-tailed Sea Eagles. We booked some places at the watch and enjoyed excellent views of the eagle and its growing chick on the huge nest. The ranger who accompanied us to the site was extremely informative and was very patient in answering all of our questions. They had set up a number of telescopes which enabled all members of the group to get good views. Those with long lenses on their cameras seemed satisfied with their photographs.
We waited in vain for the male to return to the nest. It would have been very exciting to see it fly in but alas no such luck.
The £6.00 fee for adults goes to wards community projects on Mull so we didn't mind so much paying the fee.
Visit their website for more details but take note that booking during the peak season is essential. The other point to note is to remember to take some insect repellent. The midges had started to appear by mid June and they'll probably be there until late August.
Myself and my 3 birding buddies booked a day trip with Richard Atkinson, an experienced guide of 20 years on the island of Mull.
The trip turned out to be excellent and sure enough he managed to locate for us White-tailed Sea eagle, Golden Eagle and Otters though I think he was quite lucky with these mammals. He clearly knew the best locations and other visitors had seen them prior to our arrival. When we stopped at the prime location they pointed out the otters - a mother and two full grown pups.
We all felt Richard really knew his stuff and was not phased by the group's questions or requests. He was very welcoming and I thought inclusive because not all in the group ( there were 8 all told) were as knowledgeable or as keen as everyone else but he made sure everyone was happy.
He picked us up at Salen and the others from the ferry at Craignure. He drove a mini-bus which was perfectly comfortable, albeit a little old. He also provided us with tea/cooffee and a small, packed lunch - all homemade, veggie-friendly items. All for £39 (2013 prices).
We needed to book in the busy period of June especially as there were four of us. I couldn't say whether it was necessary at other times of the year but clearly you would need to reserve your place at least one day in advance. Richard did have spare pairs of binoculars but it is best to bring your own - you will need them.
I understand there are currently at least 6 safari companies specialising on wildlife of Mull.
Starting from the small jetty at Ulva Ferry the boats operated by a Mull-based company offer a journey to the island of Staffa and then on to the larger island of Lunga, one of a group called the Treshnish Isles. The boat ride lasts between 2 and 3 hours in total with about an hour on Staffa and two hours on Lunga. Neither of the islands have any facilities so you will need to take a packed lunch and use the toilets on board the boat.
For me this boat ride and visit to the islands, especially Lunga, was the highlight of my entire week-long trip to Mull. People had said you can have close encounters with Puffins on Lunga but I wasn't prepared for the sheer numbers of them or quite how close we came to them. By crouching down I could get within 60cms - close enough to allow me to take these photos from a small compact digital camera. Apparently, whilst nesting in old rabbit burrows, the Puffins associate the presence of humans with a higher level of safety because the Ravens and Peregrine falcons do not hunt when humans are around. Consequently the nesting birds tolerate the humans and seem to show no sign of anxiety about our presence. We were concerned that we didn't see any evidence that the Puffins had chicks in their nests but apparently the season had been delayed this year by a couple of weeks and that the adults would be bringing food back for their young once they had hatched. It would be a tragedy if these charming birds had a failed breeding season which, I understand, has been the situation elsewhere.
A short walk from the main Puffin cliff to the Stack also offered us fantastic views of the Guillemot colony just a few metres off shore. It was seabird city with Puffins fluttering in and taking off, Fulmars wheeling around and a few Kittiwakes incubating their eggs. At one point we caught sight of a Peregrine Falcon but it disappeared over the cliff edge out of sight, presumably to the relief of the smaller seabirds.
Staffa, of Fingal's Cave fame, is also a hugely impressive natural phenomenon because of its distinctive columnar basalt rocks; the remains of slow cooling lava flows that erupted at the same time as those that form the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. We explored the island and ventured a short distance into the cave.
From the boat a few of us had a brief sighting of a dolphin dorsal fin but sadly it decided not to play with us and we only saw it break the water surface a couple of times. I'm told that during the months of June to September sightings of Minke whales and smaller cetaceans are reasonably common from the boat ride.
The boat returned to Ulva Ferry around 4pm leaving me with a very contented glow of having seen a wealth of other birdlife. The boat trips are very popular and booking in advance is advisable. Further details can be obtained from the Mull tourist agency. My day trip cost £55 but it was worth every penny.
Craignure is the main ferry port for Mull, with the larger ferries calling here. Don't expect a lot, as apart from the ferry quay, really the place is little more than a row of houses. There is a tourist information office, toilets, a pub with accommodation serving food and a few other places to eat. A few B&B places and the campsite which also has self catering "tents". There's also a general store and a Post Office. Petrol is available, at a premium!! What more could you want??
Coaches wait to collect people disembarking from the ferry and cruise boats and whisk them away to various destinations, including Iona and Duart and Torosay Castles.
The small, very short, little railway to Torosay Castle runs from Craignure, but it's not that regular, so check before planning your itinery.(This appears to have closed now and on our recent visit, I didn't see the station - possibly gone?)
Torosay Castle is a 1.5 mile walk away with it's magnificent gardens and Duart Castle another couple of miles on. Needeless to say, we didn't visit either but if we ever return to Mull, I would like to see at least Torosay gardens.
The road toTobermory is one-lane, with pull out spots for passing. If you meet another vehicle, somebody has to back up to the nearest wide spot. It is well worth the fairly short drive. Tobermory is very colorful and picturesque. The shops along the main street by the bay are geared to tourists, and mostly expensive, but it was fun to look. I did buy some lovely hand made chocolates in the candy shop.
In addition to the shops, there is a small distillery, a number of restaurants and pubs, several old churches, and an interesting waterfront. Just park the car and walk along the (one) main street.
The Macleod centre was built with the view of helping young people with disabilities or underprivaledged backgrounds, today young and old can lodge here, it has accomodation for up to 48 people with well spaced dormitories to encourage privacy but also to provide a community feel.
The statue of the fallen Christ stands here outside the centre. The statue is of Jesus on the road to calgary with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
The short ferry trip from Mull over to Iona is a must do when on Mull. Iona is very beautiful and peaceful. The walk from the ferry to the Abbey is short and easily managed by all ages. The Nunnery is a lovely place to visit and the gardens are nice. Next you will come to the organic gardens of the Argyll and Columba hotels. The cemetery is also very interesting and the Abbey is a must visit also.
There are 3 ways to get to Mull by ferry.
Oban - Craignure
Kilchoan - Tobermory
and my favorite Lochaline - Fishnish
Getting there (and back) is part of the adventure of Mull. On one particular trip it was so windy, we couldn't stand up straight!
Just beyond Staffa is a group of islands called the Treshnish islands. Some of the boats that go to Staffa will also take you here. The islands abound with seabirds on the cliffs and hills and have some wonderful walks. We didn't have enough time on the island to do enough exploring.
One of my favorite distilleries to visit in Scotland is the one in Tobermory. I am partial to the flavor of their malts, but I also enjoyed the tour itself. It is a small distillery compared to the big names. It has been bought up by one of the larger Whisky manufacturers, Burns Stewart, but it seems to have retained it's charm. The original name for the distillery, Ledaig (pronounced Lea-chaig) is Gaelic, and means "safe haven". This probably refers to the very sheltered harbour that it is in, as opposed to the state of mind it puts you in :) Tobermory is the source of five Single Malts - Tobermory 10 years old, and Ledaig standard, Sherry Finish, 15 years old and 20 years old.
Open : Easter – October.
Hours: Mon – Fri 10 am – 5pm
Open : October – Easter.
Hours: Tue & Thu 10 am – 5pm
Other times by appointment.
PS. Near the distillery is where you can some of the best views and photos of the town.
We just had a great week on Mull. Thanx to nickandchris for your helpful info. Here's a tip for people who want a special experience of the amazing Staffa. We went on a boat with 'Gordon' from Fionnphort, it was £20 each. As we prefer to do our own thing, we were a bit fed up that the boat filled to the max with other visitors so Liz asked the pilot? if we could stay on the island and be picked up when they returned for the next trip, 3 hours later. No problem! So Staffa was ours for 3 hours...fantastic. We watched Gannets diving, Terns, Shags, Guillemots and Puffins, one of which landed and sat about 4 feet away from us for a few minutes. We then had the cave to ourselves for about an hour. It was a brilliant sunny day and awesome views and feelings ;-)
It is some 14 miles from the ferry terminal at Craignure to Lochbuie on single lane track for the overwhelming part. The first six miles are on the semi-busy road to Iona. You pass a small tidal loch by Lochdon and then traverse the northern end of Loch Spelve - fresh mussels available from a small business along the shore. Just past the end of the loch you turn left and head south over a short steep hill (use all of your bicycle’s 21 gears!) and then head along the north shore of the western arm of Loch Spelve. Up over a smaller hill past the end of the loch you’ll pass a memorial to the men lost in WWI from this small area. There are more names than houses still present. Next, you’ll pass along the forested banks of Loch Uisg reaching a tall stone cairn erected in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1902. Lochbuie is reached shortly thereafter.
Here was the headquarters for the Clan of Maclaine of Lochbuie. The castle dates to the early 1400’s and consists of a solid tower keep. You can make out what look to be rock slipways for where the Maclaines would set out into the loch on their galleys. For years the castle has been derelict and ivy-strewn, another drop of atmosphere added to the wild nature of Lochbuie. The day I visited, Moy Castle was festooned by scaffolding as the keep is in the process of being stabilized by Historic Scotland.
As you ride into Lochbuie, you will see a sign noting ’Footpath to Stone Circle’. The sign should read ’Bogpath’ as your feet will be getting wet as you wander across boggy pastures. The stone circles are finally reached through a gate - the gate latch was set so one has to stand in about four inches of water, unless you are agile and can hang onto the gate and fence while repeating that feat three more times as you come and go. There are nine stones set in a circle, the tallest being a couple meters high. Several outlying stones are thought to be of astronomical value. The stones date to the 2nd century B.C. and are the best prehistoric monuments to be found on Mull.
The original Maclean clan branched out from Duart as the years went by. One of the earliest branches was that of the Maclaines of Lochbuie. Lochbuie is one of the most splendid sights along the long Mull coastline. A rugged bay is overlooked by peaks on three sides, the tallest being Ben Buie (2353 feet high) lying to the southwest. People had been living in this small valley by the sea for centuries before the Maclaines set up shop with their little castle at Moy along the shore. Very few people make it out to Lochbuie and both the journey and the destination make it your gain.